“In my Father’s house are many rooms.”
There is a particular smell in the garden at night when it rains. Pungent. Woodsy. Like nothing I’ve ever smelled before. Every time I encounter it, I’m filled with a nameless longing—homesick for a place I can’t remember. Tonight I stood in a soft rain just to breathe it in; to feel that sweet longing.
“Dear God, my heart longs for something I can’t name. Something I can’t remember,” I said as the rain peppered my hair. I stayed out in the dark for a few minutes more, then went back inside.
I don’t know why I’m telling you about it, other than I think you know that longing too. It’s a haunting reminder that what we have in this life is of no comparison to what God is preparing for us when we return home.
I toweled off my hair and crawled into bed and settled down to sleep, perhaps to dream. “Goodnight, God,” I said and turned off the light, knowing that all throughout the night, He would be there with me, just as He is with you, until the end of time.
Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed?
The trail twisted to the west where a stand of redwoods was so thick that sunlight couldn’t reach the forest floor. I stopped to catch my breath from the constant uphill hike and to admire the beauty. “You know that dream I’ve been nudging you with?” God asked.
“Yes. I’m aware of it,” I answered.
“When are you going to act on it?”
“I don’t know. I’m nervous about it,” I replied. A crow flew into the trees and took rest on a low branch. It looked quizzically at me as if it was waiting for me to say I’d take proper action today.
“It is more painful to keep your light hidden than it is to risk letting it shine,” God whispered in my ear as I started walking again. The crow took flight and flew ahead of me, landing on another branch just up ahead.
I caught up to the crow and called out, “I’ll do what I need to do to honor what God has given to me. Are you happy now?” I laughed at the absurdity of the moment but enjoyed the playfulness. As if satisfied, the crow launched itself into flight and disappeared into the deep woods. “God, with your help, I’ll risk bringing the dream into the world,” I said. The path leveled out and within a few steps, it meandered downhill. I was grateful for the reprieve from the exertion; grateful that God would walk with me as I moved forward with the dream.
On the day I called, You answered me; You made me bold with strength in my soul.
It seemed that the rain would never cease. The clouds, dark and swollen, had long ago replaced blue skies. Even the songbirds seemed tired of the dismal weather. They perched forlornly in the pear tree, huddling together for comfort. “I know how they feel, God,” I said as I stood at the window peering out on the meadow. “It’s been one challenge after another lately. I want shelter in the storms of life.”
“I’ll shelter you,” God answered me. “Give me your burdens and rest easy in my love and protection.” He slipped His arm around my shoulder. A crack appeared in the clouds toward the east, a streak of robin-egg blue breaking through the gray.
“You’ll give me the strength to carry on, won’t you?” I asked.
God pulled me tightly to His side and waved His hand to the clouds. They scattered across the sky, revealing the warm sun that had been shining behind them all along. “I will always give you the strength you need,” He replied.
The huddled birds moved apart and burst into song, rejoicing in the light. I too, began to sing, humming at first, then belting out the words, a bit off-key, but full of joy—my soul safe and strong.
Blessed are the poor in spirit for they know the kingdom of heaven.
As I turned the last corner towards home, four deer leaped across the path in front of me, their brown bodies gleaming in the last rays of sunlight. I listened to them as they bounded away through the manzanitas.
“They know what it is to be blessed,” God said to me as I continued walking. “They live their lives guided by my Spirit. It is only man who strays from me, missing out on my Kingdom by seeking fame and fortune, exalting himself above others.”
“I want to live my life guided by you. How do I do that?” I asked as the path grew darker. I reached out for God’s hand to help me as my steps became harder to discern in the fading light.
“This is a good start,” God said. ” Always reach for me, and rely on me, not on yourself.”
My footsteps startled a covey of quail resting in a tall oak. They rose all at once and flew on the breath of God, towards the meadow. I watched them until I could no longer make them out in the inky sky. “I’ll let go and rely on you as the animals do,” I said, and gripped His hand more tightly.
Slowly, surely, God led me back home, back to His heart, back to where He’s always been, back to where He will always be.
Give God your worries; He cares for you.
~1 Peter 5:7
The dark night stretched on and on, a fierce wind blowing against my shivering body. I stumbled and fell into a shallow ditch I didn’t see. Twigs and branches scratched at my face and hands. “God, help me!” I cried out, wondering if He could hear me above the howl of the wind.
“I’m here,” God said gently as He lifted me up onto my feet.
“Thank you,” I said, pulling small sticks out of my hair. I leaned into the wind, and once more, began walking.
“This night is fraught with peril,” God said and raised me up into His strong arms. He carried me all the way home.
The light shines in the darkness.
The sun waved goodbye to the day and slipped below the horizon. I watched from the bench under the pear tree as the last of the light faded from the garden. The twinkle lights on the arbor began to shine in the darkness, casting a sweet glow to the yard. “Those lights have been on all day,” I said. “But they shine best in the darkness. Sorta like you, God.”
“I understand. Even though my light is constant, the darkness makes it appear the brightest,” God answered.
“Yes. You’re my beacon of strength and hope when times are hard. You light the way for me. Thank you,” I replied.
“You are welcome, Sparrow. Please don’t forget that my light is there in the good times as well. Don’t ignore it. Let it lead you all the days of your life, not just when you are troubled or afraid,” God instructed.
I sat in silence for a few moments, pondering His words. “You’re right. I rely on you less when times are good,” I confessed. “I’m sorry.”
“Here, take my hand. Let’s walk back to the cottage,” God invited.
I stood up and God threw a handful of stars across the dark sky. They danced above us, sprinkling their light on our steps as we made our way back home together.